Bernie Sanders is rightly the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. RIght now he leads in national polling, delegates, popular votes cast and has gone 3 out of 3 (Including a blowout delegate win in broadly representative Nevada) for states that have thus far cast their votes.
Who can challenge him though ?
Examining the candidates officially still in the race and those with odds of less than 1000.0 on Betfair. So in broad order of plausibility…
Tom Steyer – He might have a good night in South Carolina, but his other heavily worked state, Nevada bombed with a poor vote share. He seems invisible in all states past South Carolina too. Likely never a viable candidate, it won’t (Sadly for the big green number I have next to him) be Steyer.
Tulsi Gabbard – There are the has beens, the also rans and the never weres in this nomination process. Tulsi has been barely above the Deval Patrick, John Delaneys and Marianne Williamsons in this process, Tulsi is firmly in the “never were” category.
Amy Klobuchar – Seems to have got embroiled in rows with Pete Buttigieg. There are bigger fish to fry than Buttigieg in this process and despite her having some niche midwestern appeal, her polling is nowhere outside of her home state of Minnesota right now. There looks to be absolubtely no plausible way forward for her.
Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton – I’ll deal with these together. At a contested convention, Clinton (Or Mrs Obama if you prefer longer odds fantasies) will take to the stage to make a speech about how the party needs to unite; and suddenly chants of “I’m with her, I’m with her” erupt all over the arena. She’s ruled out running, but the adulation is too great and extremely reluctantly Hillary Clinton with a click of her Lucite heels accepts the Democratic nomination. It’s the stuff of nightmares for Betfair layers, Ladbrokes, hilarious for everyone else and would probably burn twitter’s servers down. Trump would find it hilarious, but really how likely is this ?
Not going to happen, we’ve moved on from the 1952 Democrat convention – they are much wider affairs now. Delegate horse trading would be between existing candidates.
Buttigieg – A very competent candidate with a good start, but the road ahead looks extremely challenging for him. He’s had his best states, and has never connected at all with black voters. He is forecast to attain 197 delegates and his odds of winning a plurality of delegates are 0.4% according to Nate Silver’s model. Almost uniquely suited for the demographics of Iowa and New Hampshire I feel his best days in the nomination process were those first early days.
Warren – Warren has had something of a polling uplift in recent days with some strong debate performances. Her problem is that she is likely many voters second choice particularly Sanders voters. With Sanders in such a strong position fighting off the other Bs in the contest (Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Biden) can the aware liberal voter afford to potentially waste a vote on Warren if it might be better off spent on Sanders to secure him more delegates ? It is a rhetorical problem (No).
Nevertheless she might just have enough delegates (And be sufficiently Sanders friendly) to negotiate concessions at a contested convention to “get him over the line” if he is just short. She may well stay in for this reason, as she can attract a more moderate voter than Sanders too. On a personal level she seems disgusted by Bloomberg trying to literally buy the nomination – and quite right too.
Bloomberg – I for a whole heap of reasons one never believed his candidacy could have achieved the polling numbers it seems to have generated; however it seems hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising (Orange man bad) does seemingly make people want to buy anything you’re selling – particularly Florida voters that are even older than he is (The one state I think he could win).
But here’s the problem – he could well be heading into Super Tuesday with Sanders as the presumptive frontrunner, and Joe Biden coming off a bounce from South Carolina (It’s not completely inconcievable Biden might be in the delegate lead heading into ST). He’s going to split the potential Biden vote far more than any effect on Sanders, indeed if you wanted a poster child that represents everything Sanders stands against – well you couldn’t do much better than Mike Bloomberg. He’s a lousy debater, is tone deaf on issues particularly of sexism has #Metoo issues.. and his head to head polling against Sanders is poor.
Perhaps more than any other candidate he has created the conditions to flip the Sanders-Biden dynamic since the start of the process in favour of Sanders.
Onto JO ‘No malarkey’ BIDEN
Biden has had a poor campaign thus far. It should probably be no surprise given he is a man who plagiarised Kinnock speeches. Trump’s impeachment likely hasn’t helped either highlighting the murky world of jobs for the well connected boys (Jo’s son Hunter) in this case. The calendar has definitely been unhelpful, if South Carolina or Nevada had gone first he’d be in a much stronger position.
Though with a strong debate in Carolina, and the strongest part of his electoral coalition (Black moderate voters who really like Obama’s legacy) about to have their voice heard in SC he is probably the best placed candidate of the 3 (Moderate) Bs to challenge Sanders for the nomination.
He’s still behind in theoretical H2H polling but the gap is nowhere near as big as Bloomberg, and Buttigieg simply doesn’t have the electoral coalition. Will the others realise enough that Biden is likely their only shot at stopping Sanders ? Probably. Will they realise quickly enough ? Probably not.